On being a pharisee over the celebration of Christmas
Wow… it’s been a while. Anyway here’s a confession and something that I thought was worth sharing.
I’m an Anglican (that isn’t the confession, by the way) and I really like the way in which the lectionary leads us through the year and the different seasons. In fact it winds me up when churches claim not to be liturgical and reject the idea of following such a pattern – I assume they all still celebrate christmas, easter etc at the same time that the appear in the liturgical calendar.
I, therefore, have a thing about Christmas starting and ending at the right times. I.e.a 12 day festival starting after Midnight mass on Christmas eve/going into Christmas morning. And it really irritates me that Christmas starts earlier and earlier. I have my own little protests about this, i.e when I’ll set up my own decorations and when I take them back down again. Working in retail until earlier this year really didn’t help me either with Christmas songs starting in October and the store loosing anything remotely Christmasy before we went home Christmas eve (before Christmas has even begun!).
I had a colleague in my old job who used to like to start the countdown to Christmas in the summer months, it would “mysteriously” appear on the briefing boards to keep us all informed. Every time it happened I’d give out a little groan and would moan at her (in a friendly, wind up kind of way). I think she quite liked that it got to me to be honest. She loved Christmas and was able to get excited about it that early.
One day when this had happened I went to give my usual reaction but another thought overcame me. It was of Jesus looking into the situation and what he would say. I somehow don’t imagine that it would be “Well done James, you kept the rules and made others aware of them by moaning consistently” It was something more along the lines of “Don’t you see, she loves the celebration of my birth – now I know she’s not a Christian and she probably isn’t really thinking of me and it is a little early but she is celebrating – she loves it. This is the kind of heart I am after. Why would you want to put a dampener on it?” Damn, that stopped me in my tracks.
So this year I pledge to be less of a pharisee over Christmas, and take joy in seeing others getting excited about the celebration of Christ’s birth – even if they are getting it all wrong. I’m still going to do my best to observe advent first and save Christmas to the official 12 day period as much as I can (my desk decoration will be going up Christmas eve at work). I find the period of waiting and preparation in advent spiritual and it is very much part of the journey to Christmas for me. But I’m going to think twice before I tell others that they are wrong.